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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 2:15 pm | A Few Clouds 67º


Santa Ynez Valley Teen Dylan Ortega Goes a Country Smile with Opening Act for Billy Currington

2-time finalist for Santa Barbara Teen Star gets a chance to open for idol at Avila Beach concert

Santa Ynez Valley country musician Dylan Ortega Click to view larger
Santa Ynez Valley country musician Dylan Ortega will be opening for country star Billy Currington on May 19 at Avila Beach Golf Resort. (Dylan Ortega photo)

Santa Ynez country singer Dylan Ortega remembers, as a young teenager, seeing country star Billy Currington in a Guitar Center in Nashville a few years ago.

“I remember seeing him walk past me and I did a double take, questioning if I really just saw Billy Currington walk by,” Ortega said. “I have to admit I went a little star struck and thought to myself, ‘I’d love to play music with him someday.’”

“Someday” is fast approaching: Ortega, now 19, will be an opening act for Currington on May 19 at Avila Beach Golf Resort.

“My friends, Jay and Jessie, on Sunny Country 102.5, told the producer about me, and they liked my songs and asked me to be an opener,” he said. “I am so excited and thrilled, and just hope everyone will enjoy the show.”

The Santa Ynez Valley Star sat down with Ortega at one of his favorite places, the Longhorn Cafe in Santa Ynez, to talk about his upbringing in the valley. (The breakfast joint is known also for its appearance in country legend Shania Twain’s early single, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under.”)

Ortega was born and raised in the valley and grew up with his father, Vincent Ortega, until eighth grade when his dad died unexpectedly.

“It was a really dark time for me because my dad and I did everything together,” he recalled. “My mom wasn’t really in my life at the time. She is, thankfully, now.

“I took up playing the guitar and songwriting to help me get through my pain of losing my dad.”

Ortega went to live with his grandparents in Buellton, and then got involved with the vocal ensemble when he started high school. It was during a solo performance night that Ortega realized performing onstage was where he wanted to be.

“I sang ‘Remember When’ by Alan Jackson and I remember seeing all the people in the audience, and that feeling was just so impactful,” he said.

Santa Ynez Valley country musician Dylan Ortega
Dylan Ortega is a two-time finalist for Teen Star Santa Barbara. (Dylan Ortega photo)

Country music is what Ortega most enjoys performing, but his taste for music spans from classic rock to rap, hip-hop and more.

“My dad exposed me to a lot of different music styles and I like to incorporate some of that into my music as well,” he explained.

Ortega was a two-time finalist for Teen Star Santa Barbara, and he loved the experience of learning from musicians and producers there.

“I know I am really young, but I have experienced a lot in a short amount of time and learned along the way,” he said.

Ortega loves his life of making music and recording, hoping he can bring something special to a listener. He is also known for giving back and doing fundraiser performances for various community events.

He played for the Rebuild the Ranch show that raised $61,000 for Rancho Alegre, the Boy Scout camp that was destroyed by the Whittier Fire in July of last year.

He also put together the Fight the Fire benefit concert for the Thomas Fire and Montecito flash flood and debris flow victims, which raised nearly $100,000 to donate to the United Way’s Thomas Fire and Flood Fund.

“My dad instilled those values of helping others, and I want to make him proud,” Ortega said.

Recently, he had to get a little help himself, from his friends and family, after a routine tonsillectomy surgery put him back in the hospital when a blood vessel in his throat burst.

“That was a scary time, but I have a really amazing family and great friends who helped me recover,” Ortega said.

Eventually, Ortega’s doctor gave the all clear to start singing again, and he has been practicing with his vocal coach the past few weeks to ensure his voice is tuned up for the performance.

He said he will be performing his newest song, “Dirty Ol’ Me,” which he co-wrote with fellow Santa Ynez Valley native Roy Bilkey.

When asked how he met Bilkey, Ortega laughed and said it was a Craigslist ad, but quickly added, “Not like that.”

Ortega had posted an ad looking for a guitar player to accompany him, and the duo has been writing and playing music together ever since.

They recently released a few songs from their latest album, which has yet to be named, on Ortega’s website.

Ortega said his songs have been downloaded as far away as Africa and the United Kingdom, and he laughed when he recalled getting recognized by a fan at Albertsons in Buellton.

“They asked for an autograph and other people started looking at me like, ‘Who’s this guy?’” he recalled.

Ortega was even more surprised when Swedish film director Fokke Baarssen called and asked permission to use one of his songs in his film, Mist.

“It’ll be in the diner scene playing in the background, but I am excited to see it,” Ortega said.

Click here for ticket information for the concert in Avila Beach.

— Raiza Giorgi is founder and publisher of the Santa Ynez Valley Star. This story is republished with permission.

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